I have been thinking about the word essential since our President’s announcement of the lockdown last month.
Defining what is essential and what is not is a big task for a small group of people taking the lead in what has become a national strategy.
What can’t you live without?
One way to look at essential is to ask what every member of our nation cannot live without.
Does time-frame come into the definition of essential, and if so what is the right time consideration?
Is it a case of formulating the list of what is essential in the context of one current problem only?
Is it essential to react? When does future prevention become essential?
In the current situation, if treatment of severe cases is essential, is it as essential for everyone else to have a strong immune system to reduce the need for high-care? If having a strong immune system is essential for everyone else, is something like exercise and emotional well-being essential?
If current risks are higher due to large percentages of unemployment and many people living with compromised immune systems, then how essential is it not to create further poverty?
How essential is the past to the leaders making current decisions around essentiality? Do they have to view correcting the past as essential? If healthcare is compromised due to a political system that has not delivered, are they prioritising fixing it?
If needing to respond quickly to flatten a curve is essential why has flattening the corruption curve, the crime curve, the traffic offences curve, the SOE mismanagement curve, the lack of sound fiscal policy curve never qualified as essential before?
What is essential for you right now?
Enough on essential in the macro context for now – what is essential closer to home for all of us and how do we go about defining it?
While essential has been defined as house-bound for now – is training essential? Is marketing essential? Is having every member of your team productive at all times essential? Is keeping everyone employed essential?
Essential can be defined too narrowly or too broadly. If too narrow, then current and future negative repercussions will result. If too broad, then focus could be compromised by tackling too much at once. A fine line must exist here.
What if what is essential for me right now differs to what my President decides is essential. What is essential for me is that he leads the country without being hamstrung within his own party. It is essential for me that he builds a strong economy. It is essential for me to see him hold the perpetrators of corruption fully accountable. If this short list of three essentials is applicable to only me, then maybe that’s why my needs are not seen as essential in his eyes. What if 50 million other South Africans have the same three essential needs?
In my life, I have seen many leaders practicing selective leadership. For one, the financial leaders that drive cost-cutting only but never drive revenue creation or efficiency improvement initiatives practice selective leadership.
A sales director who drives sales but who leaves collecting debt to a debtors clerk practices selective leadership.
A marketing manager who drives social media content but never stops to consider ROI for marketing spend is practicing selective leadership.
A project manager who drives projects but never does anything to secure new projects practices selective leadership.
I suspect that when we consider what is and what is not essential for our survival accurately and completely, we will define the context for leadership going forward.
Past conditioning will come into it. Is it essential that meat is eaten? Is it essential for people to own guns? Is a corrupt-free government essential? Is it essential for news to be trustworthy? Is managing climate change essential?
The AND factor
In my opinion, the AND factor is, and always will be, essential:
- The provision of electricity AND for power generation to be sustainable.
- The East AND the West.
- The economy AND the planet.
- Locking down AND fixing up.
- Temporary AND permanent solutions.
The Ripple Effect is an essential service. When people say that they cope better with their personal and business lives after our programmes, then our programmes in my humble opinion become something that is essential.